‘While He Enjoyed the Scene From a Bench, I Walked to Get Us Lunch’

Jun 10, 2019 · 57 comments
City girl (NYC)
Thanks to everyone who answered my question about Coney Island. Much to ponder; summer schedules, snowstorm possibilities, essays and documentaries! Writing the above, I just recalled that a few years ago, Woody Allen (no “PC” reactions please, this is about the subject, not the man) made a film, “Wonder Wheel,” set in 1950’s Coney Island. It got mostly wretched reviews, so I didn’t see it. Have any of you? If so, worth a look? Enjoy the week; may it bring you many Metropolitan Diary moments.
els (NYC)
@City girl Hi City Girl, I just love all of the suggestions people gave you and hope you will go in winter on a cold, snowy day when the beach will be your very own white wonderland and then again on a crowded, hot summer weekend to experience the thrill of the crowds!! Maybe those hotdogs and salty fries, and oniony potato and kasha knishes were always greasy--but somehow the hot sun beating down and the salty sea air always combined to make us ravenous. Then, across the boardwalk, back on the burning sand, we'd buy orange and raspberry double-stick frosted ices that always melted down our arms faster than we could eat them. Giggling, we'd sneak back into Brighton "Private" about 1.5 mi down the beach from CI and assured whoever's grandmother had brought us that we hadn't strayed further than a block or so along the water's edge and *certainly* hadn't spoken to any boys!! And certainly not to any boys with "transistor radios"!!! Seriously, to the wonderful Am. Exper. Coney Island documentary of the Burns brothers recommended by Allen, may I add Jennifer Egan's recent novel Manhattan Beach: a view of Coney Island (through to Man. Beach military outpost watching for nazi subs and Sheepshead Bay) from 1930s to WWII and of the desolate Wmsburg/Greenpoint Navy Yards area so "hot" now in Brooklyn real estate. Happy discoveries, Elissa
Plennie Wingo (Weinfelden, Switzerland)
I recall many years ago going to Nathan's for the first time. What struck me as we walked over to it was this complicated farrago of aromas - grease, fries, dogs, the patrons. It was the real deal.
bigpalooka (hoboken, nj)
Charlie Barnett was the funniest comedian of the many that performed in Washington Square Park. Sadly, the last time I saw him, he was strung out in the walkway to the 7 train in Port Authority, alone and barely alive. A frightening end to a huge but wasted talent.
Roberta (Westchester)
LOVED the Coney Island story!
EK (Somerset, NJ)
@Roberta Me too. And such small portions.
Rob D (Rob D NJ)
These are great. I must remember to look for them on Mondays. I sometimes dont.
common sense advocate (CT)
A true slice of the city today - much needed up here in the suburbs - thanks to all!
Scott (Maryland)
@common sense advocate I may have a hand it. I'll try to tell it from -her- perspective.
common sense advocate (CT)
@Scott - I don't understand your note...
Passion for Peaches (Left Coast)
About the “Basement Bertha” story, I don’t think jokes that demean women for their looks are funny, especially in the current, supposedly more enlightened climate. That holds true even if the woman is paying along. It is particularly galling that this insulting description of the woman comes from a man.
Salix (Sunset Park, Brooklyn)
@Passion for Peaches Um, then how would you have told the story?
Allen J. Share (Native New Yorker)
Dear Passion for Peaches, I agree with you. In the 2004 movie “Kinsey,” about the life and work of the pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, the title character and one of his male associates are relaxing in the backyard one afternoon with Kinsey’s wife (played by the wonderful Laura Linney). When one of the men refers to a woman as ugly, she replies “I think ugly is an ugly word.” I not only agree but think back to a movie made almost fifty years earlier that I saw as a boy, “Marty,” and asking my mother afterwords why the men were saying such cruel things about an altogether lovely, bright, intelligent, and kind woman. Happily, Marty comes to the same conclusion by the end of the film. The message is as valid, and needed, today as it was then. Stay well, Allen
Jennifer (Old Mexico)
Wow, each and every one of these is a great snapshot of why we love NYC....
Celebrity sighting story from the daughter of Steve Jobs. That's NYC.
@AR did not catch that thanks
javierg (Miami, Florida)
@AR I did not catch that either. Who is she?
Freddie (New York NY)
Just a day after his Tony triumph, I happen to see Broadway legend Andre de Shields talking to a neighbor near the Citibike rack. OK. he lives on the block - but still...
City girl (NYC)
In the print edition today: Beginning Sunday June 23, the Metropolitan Diary will appear in the Metropolitan section for those who receive it, and the New York section for others. Is this a riddle? I subscribe to the paper 7 days a week. Does that mean I’ll get it twice? Sunday and Monday? It’s already jumped places countless times in the Monday edition. New York Times editor: Please create an email newsletter for The Metropolitan Diary. Easy peasy, you already have the format down. Even with daily delivery and an digital subscription, the New York Times is so packed, I’m likely to miss it. Don’t you know by now how much readers near and far love this column?
Maureen O. (Sacramento CA)
@City girl I just do a search for Metropolitan Diary.
fireweed (Eastsound, WA)
@City girl Here is someone from Orcas Island, off of Washington state who looks for it every week! And my friend from Alaska does the same, so it really is appreciated "near and far."
Flo (OR)
What delightful diary entries this week. I especially loved the surprise of the first story being about two authors. And I laughed out loud when I read the end of the story with the 95-year-old father and his orange drink. What a touching story about the neighbors, Kate and Rose.
Shellbrav (Arizona)
The Coney Island story makes me crave Nathans’ French fries. The ones they serve at the franchises never come close to the originals poured into the greasy paper bags they used to come in.
tnypow (NYC)
@Shellbrav You'll be disappointed...even at Coney, they're not the crunchy outside, pillowy insides of our youth....made with potato "flakes" or something...fried mashed potatoes is more like it.
Kevin Phillips (Va)
I enjoyed the story even though I had to look up Amy Sedaris.
Rob D (Rob D NJ)
Much like her brother, she is hilarious. In a different way, but hilarious and delightful. Check out YouTube for her David Letterman appearances.
City girl (NYC)
Ok my fellow natives, I have a confession and a question. Despite being born in NYC and living here all of my life ( I’m in my 50’s), I have (somehow and I don’t know how) never been to Coney Island. That seems crazy, doesn’t it? I have friends that grew up nearby, friends that still go there, and it’s not like I’ve never been to Brooklyn. Before this turns into a tome, my question is: When is the best “off” time to go? I’d prefer not to go when it’s super crowded, as I know it is “in season.” Yes, I’d like to experience that energy as well, but for my first time I’d prefer not to be overwhelmed. I’m self employed so I often have flexible weekday time as well. Obviously a thank you is due to the writer of the story that reignited my curiosity and longing, as well as to the commentators who responded. (Hopefully to my query too.)
Allen J. Share (Native New Yorker)
Dear City girl, I must leave it to others to recommend the best time to visit Coney Island, but I can recommend to you—and all readers—a terrific, beautifully illustrated extended essay written by the cultural historian John F. Kasson about the meanings of Coney Island in its heyday. It is entitled “Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century,” published by Hill & Wang in1978. You would also enjoy the documentary film Ric Burns crafted entitled simply “Coney Island” which premiered as an episode of The American Experience on PBS in 1991. Have fun, Allen
mlb4ever (New York)
@City girl If you want to avoid the crowds keep these dates in mind. Starting Fridays June 21 through August 30th Friday Night Fireworks, Saturday June 22nd The Coney Island Mermaid Parade, and of course Thursday July 4th Nathans's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest Might be just a tad packed on these dates.
Hugh Crawford (Brooklyn, Visiting California)
Probably not the answer you are seeking, but a trip to Coney Island in a snow storm is an exquisite experience.
HapinOregon (Southwest Corner of Oregon)
Another choice beginning to the week. Even my coffee tasted better...
Larry from Bushwick (Oceanside n.y.)
we ate ice cream in Washington Sq. Park ( east side after lunch 1964 ) from a good humor box with wheels. tom would ask for chocolate the response was chocolata. he said no ! chocolate ! the man in white called him a Irish so & so, all good friends.
Freddie (New York NY)
Regarding Katie Perkowski's lovely story: My mom's name is Rosalie, and most people where they live call her Rosie. We always tell this joke in her honor in Florida, and she acts like it's new to her all the time. "Two guys were talking. "My wife and I tried a new restaurant the other night. I think you would enjoy it." Friend: " We'll have to try it. What was the name of the restaurant?" First guy: "Oh, let's see, ....what WAS the name....I just can't quite think of it....hmm, what's the name of that flower.....stem, thorns....?" Friend: You mean a Rose?? First guy: Yes! That's it! ......Rose, hey Rose, what was the name of that new restaurant we went to the other night?"
Frank (Virginia)
@Freddie I tell that joke a lot. It’s a huge hit down here.
Passion for Peaches (Left Coast)
@Freddie, you take a sweet story about a budding friendship between two women and segue into a wife joke?
Freddie (New York NY)
@Passion for Peaches, What is a "wife joke?" Does the joke make fun of the wife whose husband has a faulty memory?
Allen J. Share (Native New Yorker)
Dear Katie, I’ve read your Diary entry several times and love how you wrote about meeting your new neighbor. I hope that you and Rose have become friends and that you have enjoyed some lovely conversations and perhaps dinners together, so that you now do indeed know her. My bet would be that Rose provides you ample opportunities to talk and listens carefully to what you have to say (as I hope subsequent dates you have been out with have as well). I had the sense that when Rose said “It’s good to see you” she truly meant it. Be well and happy Katie, and thank you for beginning the week with your lovely story. Allen
AJ (Tennessee)
Good entries this week!! Very funny!!!
Counter Measures (Old Borough Park, NY)
Though I forget their name, The Orange Drink, from the vendors on the beach were always great!
Frank (Virginia)
@Counter Measures Nedick’s?
J.C. Hayes (San Francisco)
@Counter Measures, the orange drink was called Sundew. I remember the guys yelling, “Hey, get yer hot knishes, cold drinks here!”
JeezLouise (Ethereal Plains)
Please let Amy Sedaris reply in these comments. Please, God, let Amy Sedaris reply.
javierg (Miami, Florida)
@JeezLouise I did not know who she was but looked it up.
yl (NJ)
@JeezLouise I love her work (and her brother's). However, I imagine Metropolitan Diary may not be quirky enough to be on her radar...
Jana DuJour (New Tork)
Dave arrived downstairs from the hotel apartment they were living in on the boardwalk in Coney Island in 1978 where Kevin was waiting to go to the Disco Inferno. "I cant find my Man Purse!!!" he hollered. to be continued..
babysladkaya (NYC)
Wow, what an amazing selection today, each story is a gem!
Allen J. Share (Native New Yorker)
Dear Mike, I loved your story recounting the trip with your father to Coney Island with its terrific punch line. Your father’s memories of his childhood in Sea Gate reminded me of our family visits there when I was a boy. We would get on the A train at 207th Street and take the long ride out to Sea Gate, where our Uncle Aaron would pick us up in his car. Uncle Aaron would refill the vending machines that back then were in all the subway stations, and the floor of the back seat of his large car was heaped with bags of nuts. I remember the pistachios in particular which, unlike that orange drink your father finally got to have, tasted wonderful. I’ll always remember that a trip to visit Uncle Aaron and Aunt Lachie invariably resulted in the characteristic pink fingers one gets eating and enjoying pistachio nuts. Thanks for the memories Mike and enjoy a good week. Allen
Freddie (New York NY)
@Allen J. Share, strangely at the Nathan's in the food court near Amtrak/NJ Transit 33rd Street side of Penn Station, the orange drink is every bit as wonderful as on Surf Avenue in the 1970s and early 1980s! And the staff at the small area always seems to be keeping the place and grill clean, so I usually get there 10-15 minutes before I have to. My youthful regular order was the drink, those insanely incredible fries, and two well-done hot dogs - except now it's one hot dog and the drink (which is just too much to drink now). The fries, well, I just have to look at remember how great they were in Coney Island and Times Square. When I'm traveling with someone who gets fries, I get two or three fries, and it feels just artery-clogging-delicious enough :) to be happy imagining having more.
Allen J. Share (Native New Yorker)
Hi Freddie, Your comment reminded me that, while I never was much of a fan of orange drinks, there was one of those open-fronted hot dog and drink places in Times Square on the east side of Broadway near 47th that made a kind of coconut milk drink that I loved. On a hot summer afternoon or evening that was just what I needed to feel refreshed and happy. Cheers Freddie, Allen
Freddie (New York NY)
@Allen J. Share, was it Orange Julius?
mlb4ever (New York)
My very first job in field service back in 1983, I covered the Bronx and Harlem, rather sketchy at that time. I always started my mornings in Harlem, the South Bronx by noon, and finished up in the Northeast Bronx, much safer this way. Occasionally my pager would go off in the afternoon, the dispatcher had new calls for me in either the South Bronx or Harlem. Like a daily vitamin I only visited those areas once-a-day
Dean (Connecticut)
Out of nowhere, Amy Sedaris appears. Two Captain America images greet each other. Two women with Hungarian backgrounds and memorable names meet as neighbors in New York. The Metropolitan Diary often has stories about life’s randomness and coincidences. Wonderful! Short post (for me) today. My wife and I are away from home for a few days, and I won’t be able to charge my iPhone until tonight. I have to conserve my iPhone’s battery charge. But I’m glad to get my own Monday Diary “charge.” Dean from CT
Allen J. Share (Native New Yorker)
Hi Dean, A few days away from home is always good for, as we used to say, recharging one’s batteries. I just finished reading “Time and Again” once more and loved it every bit as much as the first I read it some forty-nine years ago. I predict you are not only going to love it too but that you’ll be urging your wife and friends to read it as well. May you experience some pleasant random coincidences these next few days. Have fun! Allen
John Collinge (Bethesda, Md)
Very solid today, especially the 1st and final. Never knowing what pleasures await, even on a rainy Bethesda morning, make my little Monday morning ritual.
Frau Greta (Somewhere in NJ)
Love the Amy Sedaris tale. It’s like a celebrity within a celebrity story! I can picture her reading it and then telling her family they’ll never believe who she got the carrot tops from.
javierg (Miami, Florida)
@Frau Greta Oh my, I did not pick up on this! I had to look both of them up to realize what what happening (and to understand your and previous comments). I am such an airhead.
Allen J. Share (Native New Yorker)
Dear javierg, Please don’t put yourself down in such a way. There are ever so many facets of and dimensions to contemporary popular culture that it is impossible for any one person to know all of them. You undoubtedly know things that I and others would not, so I hope you will never refer to or think of yourself in such a way again. We are all lifelong learners and there’s so very much out there to learn. Stay well and be happy javierg, Allen